Natural Disasters like Cyclone, Flood and Tsunami have been affecting the coastal communities for a long time. The prime reason behind this impact is the lack of last mile communications. In a disaster situation, timely warnings allow people to take actions that save lives, reduce damage to property and minimize human suffering. To facilitate an effective warning system, there is a major need for better coordination among the early warning providers as well as those handling logistics and raising awareness about disaster preparedness, security and management. There are many new communication technologies that allow warning providers not only to reach the people at risk but also to personalize their warning message to a particular situation. Opportunities are available right now to significantly reduce loss of life and properties if disaster warning systems can be improved. In this study, the researcher analyzes how various forms of Radio plays an important role in disseminating information among the people during emergencies using survey and interviews. This paper also looks into the effective role of ICT in communicating security planning, preparedness and risk management strategies to coastal communities in the Tamil Nadu state of India.
Keywords: natural disasters, communication, technology, radio, village information centres
DISASTERS IN TAMILNADU, A COASTAL STATE IN INDIA
India is one of the most disaster prone countries of the world. It has had some of the world’s most severe droughts, famines, cyclones, earthquakes, chemical disasters, rail accidents, and road accidents. The developing countries are becoming increasingly exposed to greater numbers of natural and man-made disasters, resulting in larger numbers of people becoming victims. It is estimated that between 1980 and 1984, about 800 disasters affected the lives of about 400 million people in the world. The high density of population in the developing countries, especially in the high risk coastal areas, results in several millions of people getting affected by natural disasters, especially in recurring disasters like floods, cyclones, storm surges, etc.
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Tamilnadu being one of the 28 states of India lies on the eastern coast of the southern Indian peninsula bordered by Puducherry (Pondicherry), Kerela, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Since Tamilnadu and Puducherry were located in the coastal areas of Bay of Bengal, the natural disasters such as Tsunami, Floods, Cyclone takes away the lives of many people which include damage to the properties.
Over 1000 killed as Tsunami hits Eastern and South coastal areas in India. Over a thousand people have been killed in tidal waves in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Tamil Nadu and Puducherry was the “worst affected” with possibly over 800 people killed. At least 350 people have been confirmed dead in Tamil Nadu with over 100 people dead in Chennai alone. As many as 239 people have been killed in Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu, while in Nagapatnam; the number of dead has been confirmed as 273.
INFORMATION NEEDS IN DISASTER MANAGEMENT
The information needs of disaster management deals with collection of two categories of disaster-related data:
€ Pre-disaster baseline data about the country and risks; and
Post-disaster real-time data about the impact of a disaster and the resources available to combat it.
Similarly, the disaster management functioning procedure is dealt with two types of activities:
€ Pre-disaster activities: analysis and research (to improve the existing knowledge base), risk assessment, prevention, mitigation and preparedness; and
Post-disaster activities: response, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
The ability of leaders and administrators to make sound disaster management decisions – to analyze risks and decide upon appropriate counter-measures – can be greatly enhanced by the cross-sectoral integration of information.
COMMUNICATION FACILITIES FOR DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Communication is a major bottleneck in case of any major disaster particularly when the traditional network system already in force brakes down. In order to strengthen communications, it has been decided that police network (POLNET) will also be used for disaster management. For this purpose POLNET communication facility was extended to District Magistrates, Sub Divisional Magistrates as well as the Control Rooms.
For emergency communication, mobile satellite based units which can be transported to the site of the disaster are being procured. A group was constituted to draw a comprehensive communication plan for disaster management nd the report has since been received. This provides for a dedicated communication system for disaster management with built in redundancies.
Communication and education can play a proactive role in mitigation through awareness about the types of disaster and as to how prevention measures can be taken up.
There is also a Satellite based communication system called the Cyclone Warning Dissemination Systems (CWDS) for transmission of warnings. There are 250 cyclone-warning sets installed in the cyclone prone areas of east and west coast. The general public, the coastal residents and fishermen, are also warned through the Government machinery and broadcast of warnings through AIR and Television.
The use of satellite, computers, electronics, better communication facilities are make significant difference in disaster management. The data processing and computers are providing a useful tool in decision making in disaster.
To study the various communication technologies applied for the inter-organizational communication for disaster management in Cuddalore, a coastal state of TamilNadu.
To investigate the effectiveness of VHF Radio System based EWS in disseminating early warning to coastal communities in Cuddalore.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN DISASTER MANAGEMENT
The role of Government in disaster management is to provide a central, coordinated plan of action to address the damage caused by a disaster as well as the needs of the people affected. They also address the degree of risk present within an emergency situation. They repair the hazardous conditions such as polluted water supplies, damaged power lines, and inadequate housing. When needed, civil defense units such as the National Guard is called to maintain order within a disaster situation. Emergency management also involves providing the support necessary to prepare and rebuild a community aftermath a disaster.
Government agencies also provide the lines of communication needed to keep responders in touch with government and public officials. Mobile communications systems are also put in place to provide airlifted networks of communication throughout a particular region.
A World Wide Scenario
A report on “Disaster Management Centre”, published by Government of Sri Lanka (2005) provides details regarding the functioning of disaster management centre in Sri Lanka. Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment, information and data collection are the major functions of this centre. The collected information is disseminated to the communities through mobile phones, loudspeakers, television, radio etc.
The article also stresses on the difficulties in communication in an emergency situation. Frequent breakdown in telephone systems, jamming of telephones systems, non-availability of telecommunication facilities in remote villages creates major hindrance in communication during an emergency situation.
“Kerala State Disaster Management Policy”, a report published by Government of Kerala (2009) shows the system and procedure of working of Emergency Operation Centre (EOC). The system of EOC is designed in such a way that the information can be promptly assessed and relayed to concerned people. Rapid dissemination contributes to quick response and effective decision making during emergencies. EOC functions round the clock and maintains direct linkage with district control rooms through phone, fax, wireless and internet. Report also mentions the incidence command system.
The Incidence Command System is an organized system of government departments and other agencies that are to be worked under a structured pattern for response and recovery.
“Disaster Management Policy and Communication Systems”, a report published by Government of Japan (2007) brings out the functioning procedure of Disaster Management Communication Systems in Japan. Data gathering and message sending to communities are the major functions of this system. The information collected is disseminated to communities through loudspeakers and sirens. Report also shows the organizational communication between various departments like fire and disaster management centre, telecommunication and broadcast ministry, municipality etc.
A Nation wide Scenario
The article on “Disaster Management”, published by Government of India (2004) discusses the activities carried out by the central government at the times of a disaster. The basic responsibility of the government is to undertake rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures, and provision of logistical and financial support to state governments during a disaster. The logistical support includes deployment of aircrafts and boasts, specialist teams of Armed Forces, Central Para Military Forces, arrangements for relief materials & essential commodities including medical stores, restoration of critical infrastructure facilities including communication network and such other assistance as may be required by the affected stats to meet the situation effectively.
An article on “Disaster Management in India”, published by Government of India (2005), reveals the functioning procedure of National Emergency Management Authority. Reviewing the status of warning system, mitigation measure and disaster preparedness are its major functions. It suggests the state governments to restructure/re-group the officers/staff within the Department of Disaster Management with definite functions to pursuer the holistic approach to disaster management. The four functional groups to be assigned with specific tasks within departments are, hazard mitigation, preparedness and capacity building, relief and response, administration and finance.
“Development of National Emergency Communication Plan”, an article published by Government of India (2006) recommends a nationwide network between the state governments with triple redundancy and full reliability during emergencies to connect the national, state and district Emergency Operation Centres. In Phase – I of the report, it is proposed to establish an Emergency Communication System to provide mobile communication linkages through satellite between on-site disaster response teams to be deployed in remote locations and national and state Emergency Operation Centres. In Phase- II, the plan insists the connectivity using lines with various satellite back ups from the existing networks such as BSNL, Police Network, SPACENET to establish an integrated network among all Emergency Operation Centres and mobile Emergency Operation Centres at disaster sites.
State Wide Scenario – In Tamil Nadu and Puducherry
A report “Disaster Management in Tamil Nadu”, published by Government of Tamil Nadu (2005) describes the activities carried out by the government in all three phases of disaster management.
In Phase – I (pre-disaster phase), all district collectors would prepare detailed action plans at local body level and at district level. The public and private sectors, voluntary agencies and community would be actively involved in the formulation of such plans. Formulation of appropriate policies and guidelines for disaster management, risk assessment and mapping of disaster vulnerable areas, establishment of communication network, setting up early warning systems would be carried out in pre-disaster phase.
In phase – II (disaster phase) warning and evacuation, immediate search and rescue operations, providing medical care, adequate health and sanitation care, provision of safe drinking water, mobilizing funds for relief, rehabilitation, relief packages are carried out in disaster phase.
In phase – III (post-disaster phase) reconstruction of houses, relocation of affected people, disbursement of funds, redressal of grievances, modification and updation of disaster plans are carried out.
“Disaster Management Action Plan for Floods & Cyclones”, a report published by Government of Puducherry (2009) describes the details regarding various organizations like revenue department, fire and rescue department, health department etc. involved in disaster management within Puducherry and their functions.
Report also mentions the activities carried out by these departments during a disaster, like revenue department disseminates early warnings before a disaster strikes, fire and rescue department helps in search and rescue process while all the medical needs and disturbances are handled by health department.
A report on “Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for disasters”, published by Government of Puducherry (2009) describes the steps prepared in concise form as a response to any kind of disaster. It suggests the sequence of actions to be taken by different departments in central/state/district level.
The SOP will respond to all disaster calls, mobilizing staff and fire units, effective management of resources by communication and mobilization of additional resources. It will be altered according to the scene of occurrence and a quick spot decision will be made by the operational in charge in consultation with the controlling officers.
ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Functions at National Level
J. P. Saulina Arnold (2006) discusses “National Disaster Response Mechanism”, which reviews the existing arrangements for preparedness and mitigation of natural/man-made disasters, recommend measures for strengthening organizational structures and recommends a comprehensive model plan for management of the disasters at National, State and District level.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been established with personnel from the Para military forces for strengthening the preparedness and emergency response in the country. Eight battalions of the NDRF have been setup and deployed in strategic locations in the country and the NDRF personnel are being trained and equipped with state-of-the-art life saving equipments, search and rescue equipments, inflatable boats, etc. The NDRF personnel are also being trained for preparing and responding to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) emergencies.
Vinod Chandra Menon (2009) discusses the role of “National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)”. NDMA is chaired by the Prime Minister is the apex body for disaster management in country, which sets up State District Management Authorities for the effective coordination among the central and state to minimize the impact of the disaster.
The National Institute for Disaster Management (NIDM) has been established as the apex training institute for disaster management in India. NIDM coordinates the capacity building efforts of disaster management faculty in State Training Institutes and also offers a few distance education programmes in disaster management in collaboration with the World Bank Institute. The NIDM also hosts the SAARC Centre for Disaster Management.
Vinod K. Sharma (2006) describes the role of “National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC)”, which gives direction to the Crisis Management Group as deemed necessary. The Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for ensuring that all developments are brought to the notice of the NCMC promptly. The NCMC can give directions to any Ministry/Department/Organization for specific action needed for meeting the crisis situation.
The article also describes the role of “National Emergency Management Authority at the National level (NEMA)”. When a disaster strikes, the Authority will coordinate disaster management activities. The Authority will be responsible for:-
· Coordinating/mandating Government’s policies for disaster reduction/mitigation.
· Ensuring adequate preparedness at all levels in order to meet disasters.
· Coordinating response to a disaster when it strikes.
· Coordination of post disaster relief and rehabilitation.
Functions at State Level
The report “Disaster Management in Tamil Nadu”, published by Government of Tamil Nadu (2006) describes the role of State Emergency Management Planning Committee (SEMPC). State Emergency Management Plan is prepared for each kind of disaster and the details of the organizational structure for emergency management activities are known. Responsibility of concerned agencies for the execution of rescue, relief and recovery operations and Standard Operating Procedure for each is available. A State Emergency Management Planning Committee (SEMPC) should be constituted with all the stakeholders as members.
The report also analyzes the role of State Crisis Group (SCG). State Crisis Group (SCG) enables quick decision making, operational direction and coordination of the issue of warning and execution of rescue, relief and recovery operations. The responsibilities of the SCG would include:
On spot decision making
Control and coordination of response and recovery activities
Resource mobilization and replenishment
Monitoring of overall response & recovery activities.
Preparation of reports for submission to State Government
State Emergency Control Room (SECR) ensures all warning and communication systems, instruments are in working condition and collect information on a routine basis from the State departments on the vulnerability of areas to disasters.
Functions at District Level
The report published by Government of Tamil Nadu (2006) reviews the functioning procedure of disaster management organizations at district level. It is the District Collector who is the focal point at the District level for directing, supervising and monitoring relief measures for disaster and for preparation of District level plans. The relief measures are reviewed by the district level relief committee consisting of official and non-official members including the local legislators and the members of parliament. The Collector maintains close coordination with the Central Government authorities in the districts, namely, the Army, Air Force and Navy, Ministry of Water Resources, etc., who supplement the effort of the district administration in the rescue and relief operation.
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ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION FOR DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Duke H. Jeong (2006) analyzes the “Inter-Organizational Information Management and Communication Breakdowns in Initial Disaster Response Mechanism”. During disaster relief operations, collaborative critical decisions are often made by decision-makers from many different organizations and from a diversity of professional fields. Communication breakdowns often hamper the effective coordination of a disaster response, particularly when a multiplicity of Federal, state, local and volunteer organizations takes part in the effort. A communication breakdown is defined as the failure to communicate information due to the inability to obtain critical and needed information and the inability to obtain sufficient information quality to support decision-making.
Gauruav Vivek Bhatnagar (2009) discusses the “New Network for Disaster Management”. Terrestrial Trunked Radio (Tetra) Communication would help establish the country’s first exclusive Government Radio Network (GRN) in Delhi.
Tetra network seeks to facilitate swift and secure communication among various government agencies like Police, Fire services, hospitals, Public Works Department and Transport Corporation, the system would of be of great help in any disaster management exercise. Johnson and Zawawi (2002) describe the advances in inter-organizational disaster Management. Inter-organizational disaster response requires collaboration among geographically distributed public and private organizations to enable a rapid and effective response to an unexpected event. In order to ensure coherent coordination among the responding organizations, relevant information needs have to be collected from multiple sources, verified for accuracy and shared with appropriate organizations, all within a short time frame.
Humphrey (2009) suggests that disaster management should get proactive by using RPM method. RPM stands for Recognize, Prioritize, and Mobilize to anticipate potential disasters. This approach involves recognizing potential threats, prioritizing them according to their seriousness and mobilizing resources to prevent them from occurring or at least minimizing their impact.
Most organizations fail to anticipate threats mainly because of following reasons:
Lack of recognition: Leaders remain oblivious to approaching threats and pay no head to warning signs.
Lack of prioritizations: Leaders detect a threat but do not consider it serious enough and therefore do not give the attention it deserves.
Lack of Mobilization: They recognize a danger and are aware of its seriousness but neglect to take proper action in time.
Lawal Billa, Mansor Shattri, Ahmad Rodzi Mahmud and Abdul Halim Ghazali (2006) have discussed about the “Comprehensive Planning and the Role of Spatial Decision Support System”. Through case study, they have analyzed that the strength of Spatial Decision Support System in the collection and processing of information to speed-up communication between the proponents of the disaster management program. Moreover, Spatial Decision Support System plays an important role in decision-making.
Louise K. Comfort (2006) describes the Inter-Organizational Design for Disaster Management”. Cognition – understanding; communication, coordination and control are the main factors to be concentrated between the organizations of disaster management.
Marijn Janssen and Nitesh Bharosa (2005) discuss the Advances in Multi-agency Disaster Management”. When a disaster strikes, the complex task environment requires multiple organizations to transform from autonomous actors to interdependent decision-making teams. In order to ensure coherent coordination among the responding organizations, relevant information needs to be collected form multiple sources, verified for accuracy and shared with appropriate responding organizations all within a short time frame.
Naim Kapucu (2006) describes the “Interagency Communication Networks during Emergencies”. He focuses on pre-incident and technical aspects of communication. Pre-incident communications deals among key local disaster response organizations such as law enforcement agencies, fire departments, local emergency management agencies and organizations in the health and welfare sectors. The tool used for communication between organizations during a disaster is mobile communication and computer based networking. Technical problems also inhibit the information exchange. Flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes are all capable of toppling antennas and interrupting normal electrical power.
Nigel Martin (2007) has reviewed how regional governments in Asia and other national governments around the world collect, manage and share critical geo-technical information. Through case study, it was concluded that early warning information were not handled by the government in an efficient way before the tsunami wave stroke. No proper technological solutions to provide earthquake and tsunami warning information.
N. K. Chhibber (2007) describes the “Disaster Communication Network” in Maharashtra. VSAT network and VHF radio network has been maintained for the dissemination of emergency information within the state.
Ryan, Matheson (2009) analyze the “Significance of Communication in Emergency Management”. The study attempts to quantity the importance of communication activities to emergency management. Through content analysis, it was founded that there is a rapid improved communication between the organizations.
Sir car, Scalem (2004) has described about the “Networking of Organizations” in four zones of working such as normal stage, pre-disaster stage, disaster stage and post-disaster stage. The role of Revenue department in pre-disaster stage is to collect the warning news from higher officials and pass the information to communities through mobile technology or radio technology. The role of Fire and Rescue Department is to provide rescue and rehabilitation procedure.
Soundarya Viswanathan (2009) describes the awareness level among the government officials, representatives of local bodies and general public of disaster. Lack of awareness among them, lead to a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or society, causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses.
In order to meet the disaster risk posed by forms of disasters, a system of enormous task must be undertaken such as hazard analysis and dissemination to the community, identification of vulnerabilities to various hazards, eliminating or strengthening the vulnerabilities, capacitating the community for readiness and resilent to all types of hazard.
S. Suri (2000) analyzes the reasons behind the Orissa disaster which took away many lives of the people due to the failure of Cyclone Warning Dissemination System (CWDS). Due to the system failure, warnings were not given so to create awareness to the people, which has lead to a major destruction. Only television and radio warnings were given, but not of accurate information.
Vinod K. Sharma (2002) describes the overall view of the disaster administration mechanism in the country at the central, the state and the district level also highlighting the role played by the secondary institutions. The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC) in the agriculture ministry is the nodal department for all matters concerning natural disasters relief at the centre. It transmits all emergency information to all concerned state governments for effective disaster management.
The report published by Government of Puducherry (2006) describes the implementation of various communication technologies in Puducherry after tsunami. It describes the activation go emergency operation centre and dissemination of early warming through VHF sets.
For this study the researcher has adopted survey method which is a quantitative type of research. The tool used for data collection is Questionnaire. Cluster sampling technique was used for data collection from coastal communities in Cuddalore. The sample size is 300.
The Survey was conducted to find the mostly employed communication technology for security planning during disasters and the effectiveness of VHF based Early Warning Systems among them.
ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
The following is the graphical presentation of data collected from the questionnaires.
When asked whether they are aware about various disasters, the response was the following:
Fig. 1 Awareness level about various disasters
Coastal communities are majorly aware of following communication technologies:
Fig. 2 Knowledge regarding Communication technologies
Communication technologies they have in their homes, which are majorly employed in disaster management are:
Fig. 3 Communication technologies used in homes.
When asked the source of getting disaster news, the response was the following:
Fig. 4 Devices used to getting information regarding disasters.
When asked, whether they are informed regularly the alterations in weather conditions, the response was the following:
Fig. 5 Updation of weather alterations.
They get weather information from,
Fig. 6 Organizations that provide weather information’s.
When asked about the usage of mobile phones in disaster management, the response was following:
Fig. 7 Usage of Mobile Phones for disseminating disaster news.
When asked whether they are aware of VHF Radio based Early Warning System, the response was following:
Fig. 8 Awareness level regarding VHF systems.
The Efficiency of VHF Radio based Early Warning System before 2009 is:
Fig. 9 Efficiency of VHF systems before 2009.
The Efficiency of VHF Radio based Early Warning System after 2009 is 76% as shown below:
Fig. 9.1 Efficiency of VHF systems after 2009.
The Efficiency of Village Information Centre’s (VIC) Public Address System (PAS) based Early Warning System before 2009 is:
Fig. 10 Efficiency of VIC early warning systems before 2009.
The Efficiency of Village Information Centre’s (VIC) Public Address System (PAS) based Early Warning System after 2009 is just 19%:
Fig. 10.1 Efficiency of VIC early warning systems after 2009.
Type of information they get from VHF system is,
Fig. 11 Type of information provided by VHF systems.
87% of the respondents told that they are aware of various disasters that would bring great disturbance to their livelihood. 13% of the respondents very unable to distinguish the natural disasters from man-made disasters.
Majority of the respondents replied that, Mobile Phones and TV are the major communication technologies, which knew that mainly provide information regarding disasters.
There are majorly two modes of communication dedicated for disaster management in coastal areas. One is from the government side and the other is from the non-governmental organizations (NGO). The government of Tamil Nadu has set up VHF Radio based early warning system in all the panchayat offices of coastal villages that are present in the High Tide Line (HTL). HTL is defined as the area within 500 mts from the sea level. The warning is given through PAS (Public Address System) present on top of the panchayat office buildings that have a reach of 1 to 2 kms. NGOs have established Village Information Centres (VIC) in most of the coastal areas that are vulnerable to coastal disasters. These VICs also have PAS for disaster information dissemination.
98% of the respondents said that they are aware of VHF Radio based Early Warning System and VICs run by the local NGOs, while 2% of the respondents are unaware of it. Majority of the respondents told that VHF Radio based Early Warning System is effective in disseminating in disaster news to coastal community before 2009. It is to be noted that the Indian Ocean Tsunami striked the Tamil Nadu coast during December 2004 and after that immediately, VIC and VHF based early warning systems were established. It was functioning very well for more than 2 years as said by the respondents. But there is deterioration in the quality and frequency of disaster information being disseminated through both the systems after 2009 especially with respect to the VICs run by NGOs because of their problems with financial sustainability. The figures and percentages are clearly given in the graph above.
64% of the respondents replied that they gain early warning alerts from VHF system, 32.8% respondents receive preparedness aler
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